Japan’s growing anti-nuclear protests

Reports of 75,000 people attending a protest against nuclear power in Tokyo this week reflect growing anxiety about the future of the industry in Japan. 

The protests follow the decision to restart two nuclear power plants in June amid government fears that there would be power shortages this summer without them. 

Before the tsunami and subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima plant, Japan relied on nuclear for one-third of its energy. Within two months, all 54 of its nuclear reactors were temporarily closed, with the then prime minister Naoto Kan promising a much bigger promotion of renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar and biomass. 

It now appears the government favours a return to nuclear dependency – although a major policy recommendation on whether to reduce, increase or end nuclear energy in Japan is expected in the next month. 

In the meantime, public sentiment in a country not used to public protest appears to be far from unanimous. A poll by the Pew Research Center recently found 70% in favour of reducing Japan’s reliance on nuclear power – a figure higher than in the aftermath of the meltdown at Fukushima in March 2011.